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US, allies urge Taiwan participation in World Health Assembly

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The United States and several allies issued a joint statement Friday voicing support for Taiwan to take part in the World Health Organization’s World Health Assembly, which formally opens Monday in Geneva.

The World Health Assembly, or WHA, is an annual gathering in which member nations and states meet with health experts from around the world to discuss priorities for advancing global health and global health security.

Taiwan is excluded from most international organizations because of objections by China, which considers the democratically governed island its territory.

Under a previous agreement, from 2009 to 2016, the democratically governed Island could participate as an observer nation at the meeting.

Beijing began blocking Taiwan’s participation in 2017, after former President Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party won office, for her refusal to agree to China’s position that both China and Taiwan are part of “one China.”

The joint statement by the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany and Japan, and signatories said Taiwan’s participation in the assembly best exemplifies the WHO’s “health for all” approach to international health cooperation.

The statement said the COVID-19 pandemic plainly illustrated “viruses do not respect borders and it takes global cooperation to keep the whole world safe.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this month issued a separate statement strongly encouraging “the WHO to reinstate an invitation to Taiwan to participate as an observer at this year’s WHA so the world may once again benefit from Taiwan’s expertise and experience.”

Blinken’s and other calls for Taiwan’s WHA participation prompted China’s Foreign Ministry last week to issue a statement reiterating its position.

At a Beijing briefing, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters,

“Since the Democratic Progressive Party came to power in 2016, it has refused to recognize the 1992 consensus and stubbornly stuck to the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist position,” he said. “Which means that the political foundation for the Taiwan region’s participation in the WHA no longer exists.”

At a news conference Friday in Taipei, Taiwan Health Minister Chiu Tai-yuan and Foreign Minister Lin Chia-Ling said a delegation would travel to Geneva for meetings on the sidelines of the WHA with friendly countries.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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